Archive for the ‘Safety / Security’ Category
One of the most common resolutions people make every year is to take better care of their bodies, either by losing weight, quitting smoking or exercising more. Another resolution that may be easier to stick with is to better take care of your home! When you consider the amount of time your family spends at home, it makes total sense to give your home an annual physical to make sure you are doing what is needed to keep your home and your family healthy. HouseMaster has prepared a list of some basic items to check to help assist you in performing a “physical” on your home.
- Security Alarms/Detectors. Check all safety and security alarms. If tied into a monitoring system ensure all contact information is up to date.
- Smoke/Fire Alarms. These are your family’s first line of defense –warning you in the event of a fire/smoke emergency. Test all fire/smoke alarms regularly. Change the batteries at least annually. Set a regular date to change the batteries in all the units. Replace older units (after five years or as otherwise recommended by the manufacturer).
- CO Monitors. Carbon Monoxide is odorless and colorless. A CO detector is the only way to identify elevated levels of CO in your home before physical injury occurs. If you don’t have CO monitors protecting your home from this toxic gas, you should act immediately and install them in strategic locations near the sleeping areas and other points recommended by the manufacturer or local officials. Check that presently installed units are operational and change batteries annually.
- Moisture and Mold. Mold spores abound in any home, but they need moisture and food to become a health threat. Most molds are toxic; however, any mold – and the cause of the mold – needs to be eliminated. The first step in minimizing the health effects from mold is to remove the moisture. Check major appliances and all plumbing fixtures for leaks. Look closely around and under showers, tubs, and any tilework. Don’t forget roof and exterior wall penetrations. The flashings at these areas often need to be resealed periodically. If mold is found, consider testing it to identify the type of mold and determine remediation options.
- Radon Testing. Radon gas is another odorless, colorless health hazard that could be lurking in your home. Testing is easy and inexpensive. Do it yourself test kits are available at most hardware stores. If elevated levels are found, the good news is a radon mitigation system can be installed to reduce the health threat and give you peace of mind.
Surprisingly, the majority of injuries to children are not the result of a recalled or dangerous product. Even well designed toys can be hazardous if given to a child in the wrong age range or if not used properly. Injuries from riding toys account for a significant number of incidents and choking incidents are always an ongoing concern.
Make sure toys are suited to the child’s age, abilities, skills and interest level. Review all manufacturer instructions and warnings and pay special attention to the following hazards:
- Magnets - For children under age six, avoid building sets with small magnets. If swallowed, serious injuries and/or death can occur.
- Small Parts and Sharp Edges - For children younger than three, avoid any toys with small parts or points that can cause choking or contact injuries.
- Projectile Toys - Projectile toys such as air rockets, darts and sling shots are for older children. Improper use of these toys can result in serious eye injuries.
- Batteries and Chargers - Make sure battery compartments are secured and childproofed if necessary. Small batteries can be swallowed with serious consequences. Battery charging should be supervised by adults. Improper use can pose shock or burn hazards to children.
Toys aren’t the only items found in a home that children may need protection from. Every year the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Canadian Standards Association issue recall notices and product alerts for products that pose safety risks to children as well as adults. These include:
- Lead and lead-paint hazards with cooking and eating containers
- Choking hazards associated with blinds and Roman shades
- Electric and fire hazards associated with electric space heaters
- Carbon monoxide hazards associated with portable generators
To keep up to date on potential concerns in your home, visit the following websites: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and CSA Product Alerts & Product Recalls. You can also sign up for a subscription service to get regular notices via email of new product safety warnings.
Over 50 million people in North America are estimated to have some sort of disability that could make it difficult for them to evacuate from their home or another building in the event of an emergency. While building codes have continuously improved over the years to include requirements that reduce damage and injury to people and property by mandating features such as fire-resistive construction materials and structural stability, equally important issues such as accessibility and egress provisions have only relatively recently gotten the attention needed.
In response to the increasing need to properly provide emergency evacuation procedures for the disability community, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed an Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities. This Guide addresses the minimum information necessary to develop a comprehensive personal evacuation plan and is available in a free, downloadable format from the NFPA website at www.nfpa.org orhttp://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/Forms/EvacuationGuide.pdf
Accessibility considerations are equally important for individuals living in single family detached homes as well as townhouses, condominiums, and multiple-unit dwellings. Many newer buildings are constructed as “accessible” or “barrier free” to allow people with disabilities ready access. Visual as well as audible fire alarm system components, audible/directional-sounding alarm devices, areas of refuge, stair-descent devices, and other code-based technologies clearly move us in the right direction to address these issues. But regardless of the presence of these features everyone needs to be prepared to take appropriate action for themselves or other disabled individuals during an emergency.
The Guide is arranged by five general disability categories:
- Mobility impairments
- Visual impairments
- Hearing impairments
- Speech impairments
- Cognitive impairments
The four key elements of an evacuation plan are highlighted for each disability category:
- Notification of an emergency
- Finding a way out
- How to get out by self, by self with special devices; or with assistance
- What kind of assistance might be needed
Furniture tip over injuries have increased as the size of furniture and appliances has increased. Tip-over casualties most frequently occur when children climb onto, fall against or pull themselves up on television stands, shelves, bookcases, dressers, desks and chests. In some cases, televisions placed on top of furniture fall and cause a child to suffer traumatic injuries.
Industry standards require that TV stands, chests, bureaus and dressers pass a stability test. If a piece of furniture violates these standards, the product can be subject to a safety recall. But this only provides limited protection. Where the TV or furniture is placed and how it is used is beyond the manufacturer control. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Health Canada there are simple steps that parents and caregivers can take to help prevent injury.
To help prevent tip-over hazards, consider the following safety tips:
- Choose storage furniture (bookcases, cabinets, television stands and dressers) with wide and stable bases that sit directly on the floor. Models with legs or wheels are more likely to tip over.
- Attach furniture to the wall using angle braces, anchors or safety straps. If these items come with the product, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation. Secure the anchors directly to wall studs if possible.
- Do not place TVs on dressers. They are not designed to hold them. Place televisions far back on low, stable furniture that is designed to hold the weight and size of the television. Attach the television to a stand if possible.
- Keep electrical cords behind furniture where children cannot reach them.
- Do not place items that may appeal to children — such as toys, plants and remote controls — on top of TVs or tall furniture.
- Children may climb dressers because the drawers can be opened and used as steps. But open drawers make a dresser unstable, increasing the chance of it tipping over. For your children’s safety:
- Open only one drawer at a time and close all drawers when not in use.
- Place heavier items — like books — on lower shelves or in lower drawers.
- Always supervise children in the home and teach them not to climb or hang from furniture.
Tip over protection is also needed for most freestanding and slide-in ranges/ovens. This is a simple bracket that is usually installed at the back base of the unit to prevent it from tipping over if weight is applied to an open door. Most manufacturers have supplied the bracket since the 1990s. It can often be observed by removing the bottom drawer, if one is present. If there is any doubt about whether this tip protection is required for your unit or how it should be installed, contact the manufactures. For extra protection when children are present, a child-resistant door lock can be installed.
For additional tips on home safety go to totsafe.com
Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires are the more recognized natural disasters. Many homeowners thinking that they don’t live in an area regularly exposed to these or other natural or man-made disasters can become complacent about protecting their homes and families. But all homeowners need to be prepared for emergency evacuations and life after a catastrophic event – as many on the east coast have unfortunately learned as a result of the recent hurricane and tropical storm damage.
According to the Red Cross, there are six basic items you should stock in your home: water, food, first aid and medical supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items. Items that you would most likely need during an evacuation should be kept in a clearly marked, easy-to carry, water resistant container.
Store water in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles. Allow one gallon of water per person per day. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments and intense physical activity can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers, and ill people will need more. Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person (two quarts for drinking, two quarts for each person in your household for food preparation/sanitation).
Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. To heat food, pack a can of sterno. Select food items that are compact and lightweight. Include a selection of canned meats, fruits, vegetables and juices. Include some salt and spices, high energy foods, and special stress/comfort foods. Don’t forget food and drinks for babies.
First Aid Supplies
Assemble a first aid kit for your home and one for each car that includes items such as bandages and gauze pads of various sizes and types, adhesive tape, scissors, antiseptics, cold packs, and a CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield.
Non-Prescription Drugs and Required Medication
Don’t forget to include some vitamins, aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, and anti-acids. Have Syrup of Ipecac (used to induce vomiting) and activated charcoal available but use only if advised by a Poison Center or medical personnel.
Also, maintain a supply of any required heart and high blood pressure medication, insulin, other prescription drugs, denture needs, and extra eyeglasses.
Clothing and Bedding
Include at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person, sturdy shoes, rain gear, blankets or sleeping bags, overcoats, hat and gloves, and sunglasses.
Tools and Emergency Supplies
You’ll need supplies such as cooking and eating containers and utensils, battery-operated radio and flashlights (with plenty of extra batteries), cash or traveler’s checks, coins, fire extinguishers, basic household tools, tape, rope, matches or lighters, whistle, and plastic sheeting.
A stock of sanitation supplies should also be available, including toilet paper, towelettes, soap, liquid detergent, personal hygiene items, baby diapers, plastic garbage bags and ties, plastic buckets with tight lids, bleach and disinfectants.
Important Family Documents
Finally, important records should be kept in a waterproof, portable container. These include wills, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds, bank and credit card account information, passports, social security cards, and immunization records. You should also have an inventory of valuable household goods, important telephone numbers, family records (birth, marriage, death certificates).
Re-think your kit and family needs at least once a year. Change your stored water supply every six months so it stays fresh. Replace your stored food and medical supplies every six months or as recommended. Replace batteries, clothes, etc. as needed.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA©) also has an online game to help you and your family prepare an emergency supplies kit.
Mold spores are present everywhere. Mold growth is most prolific in warm, damp weather, but high indoor moisture levels and poor ventilation can contribute to mold growth any time of year. To help reduce the potential for mold, provide adequate air circulation and reduce moisture levels in mold-prone areas, such as basements and storage areas.
Avoid storing items directly against walls in potentially damp areas, which restricts air circulation and trap moisture against surfaces. Also consider placing boxes and storage containers on blocks or pallets to allow for air flow.
Frequent air change will help control moisture levels and keep moisture and mold spores from building up. When outdoor weather is appropriate, promote air flow and air changes by using air circulating fans and/or opening the windows slightly. Dehumidifiers can help remove moisture from the air, but realize mold spores will remain. Problems may re-occur when moist conditions return.
When water leaks or spills occur indoors – act quickly. If wet or damp materials are removed or allowed to dry out within 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow.
Since prevention is always the best way to keep a home fit, the following tips can avoid the potential health and financial burdens associated with mold.
- Repair or reseal roof flashings when damaged or worn.
- Clean gutters regularly.
- Make sure the ground slopes away from your house foundation.
- Pipe downspout water discharge points away from the foundation.
- Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed.
- Check the condition of all water piping, fittings, and fixtures periodically.
- Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes, dryers to the outside.
- Keep indoor humidity low. Use air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers when needed.
- Use exhaust fans or open windows whenever showering or cooking for extended periods.
- Increase ventilation or air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical.
- Cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation.
- Add a moisture barrier over dirt floors in crawlspaces.
- Make sure attics and crawlspaces are vented properly.
- If you see condensation or moisture collecting on surfaces, act quickly to dry the wet surface and reduce the moisture/water source.
For additional guidance on mold issues, visit the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Portable fans are one way to help breeze comfortably through a summer heat wave, but as the season winds down, homeowners should continue to be aware of the potential safety hazards associated with their use. Inexpensive portable fans are not designed to operate long-term. Over time, plastic fan blades can crack or can get out of balance due to heavy dirt buildup. The occasional inadvertent knockover also is likely to cause damage that may not be immediately apparent. Exposed portions of the fan’s cord can be damaged by foot traffic, vacuuming or objects inadvertently placed over the electric cords. Any fan that operates noisily or erratically should be immediately disconnected and repaired or replaced.
Underwriters Laboratories also recommends the following safety precautions:
- Place the fan and cord out of general traffic patterns.
- Position the fan on a stable, level surface.
- Do not use a fan near an open flame or where combustibles could be blown toward a heat source.
- Keep fans from outdoors or damp areas where electric shock could occur.
- Do not attempt to start or move an operating fan in the dark.
- Keep children away from all fans.
- Immediately replace frayed or damaged wires, or dispose of the fan.
- Be aware of fans sold at garage sales; in particular old metal blade units. In addition to possible damage, old units may lack the safety features available with the newer units. Look for a Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Canada Standards Association (CSA) listing indicating manufacturing standards have been meet.
Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue.
There are many potential outdoor safety hazards around your home. Playground and pool safety are two areas of concern most homeowners are well aware of, but everyone also needs to watch out for hazards associated with gas grills.
Here are some tips to make sure your family and friends have a safe outdoor experience:
- Regularly check the condition of playground equipment for rusted, rotted, loose or otherwise damaged components or sharp edges.
- Make sure playground equipment is age appropriate. Provide suitable supervision.
- Ensure that there is a soft, hazard-free surface under and around all playground equipment. At least 9 inches of a base material extending out six feet is advised.
- Avoid using swings and other moving components that present a higher risk of injury.
- Check for entrapment hazards from gaps in the equipment that are either too small or “v-shaped,” which could allow a child or child’s clothing to get trapped or caught, causing strangulation. Also remove any damaged or loose hanging ropes.
- Make sure rails on elevated areas are secure and not spaced too far apart presenting a fall hazard, or too close together causing an entrapment hazard.
- Provide constant supervision of children around any pools or other bodies of water; but also be aware of the hazards of adults swimming alone. Keep lifesaving devices readily available.
- Make sure the pool is surrounded by a suitable fence and gate. Install child-resistant latches and water alarms.
- Make sure all electrical components are installed to code and in good condition. Do not allow the use of any electric-powered devices around the pool.
- Gasoline and propane should only be stored outside in approved containers in good condition.
- Make sure the gas grill is on a level surface and all components are in good condition. Check periodically for loose or damaged burners, grates, handles, and hinges.
- Separate the grilling area from the eating or play areas and make sure the grill has adequate clearance from trees and shrubs, deck railings and the house. A grill can get hot enough to melt vinyl siding even several feet away.
- Check the gas lines for leaks each time a new tank is installed. Do not attempt to light burners or strike a match if the odor of gas is present.
- Turn off the gas valve on the tank after every use.
- Bugs can take up residence in the gas burner components, especially if the grill has not been used for a while, blocking or upsetting the gas flow and creating a fire and/or burn hazard. Be particularly cautious if there are spider webs and other insect activity in the area of the grill.
- Do not allow children to use a grill and make sure children are kept away from the grill area until it has cooled down.
Each year, the insertion of foreign objects into electric receptacles results in injuries to many children. Nearly 90% of these incidents involved children under 6, with 1st and 2nd degree burns accounting for the vast majority of injuries.
The typical foreign-object insertion situation involves:
- A 2 or 3 year old child (50% of all incidents)
- An incident occurring at home
- Insertion of a hairpin or key
- 1st or 2nd degree burn to fingers
- Emotional trauma to the child and parents
- Treatment required in an emergency room
Besides hairpins or keys, other common objects inserted by children include fingers, pins, wires, screws, nails, paper clips, plugs, tweezers, paper clips, utensils and jewelry.
To help prevent these insertion incidents and injuries, the most widely used electric codes call for a new electric safety feature in all new homes – tamper-resistant receptacles.
This code change primarily affects new construction; however, tamper-resistant receptacles can be added in existing homes as well.
Tamper-resistant receptacle technology uses a built-in system to prevent a foreign object from touching electrically live components when the object is inserted into the receptacle slots. There are several methods to achieve tamper-resistance operation, the most common being the use of a spring-loaded shutter mechanism. When the receptacle is not in use, the shutters are closed, and all electric contacts are covered. Upon insertion of a plug, the blades of the plug simultaneously compress the shutters against the spring. This simultaneous force causes the shutters to slide aside to access to the receptacle contacts, allowing the plug to be fully inserted into the receptacle. When the plug is removed, the shutters instantly close, covering the contact openings.
Standard plugs can be inserted in and removed from a tamperproof receptacle in the same manner as standard electrical outlets; however, insertion of an object into one slot, or uneven insertion is prevented. The tamper-resistant features, however, don’t provide protection against the simultaneous insertion of two single-pronged items. Determined adults and adolescents could also bypass the tamperproof mechanisms if significant force is applied.
Unlike plastic outlet caps and other add-on childproofing devices, which can be removed, tamper-resistant receptacles provide permanent protection. In addition, some plug-in devices can easily be pulled out by children and have also proven to be a choking hazard due to their small size. Some other types of add-on devices create a risk of arcing or overheating due to a partially exposed plug or reduced plug/receptacle contact surface.
All tamper-resistant receptacles must have either the words “Tamper Resistant” or the letters “TR” on the device in a manner that allows the label to be reviewed with the wall plate removed.
Additional information about tamper-resistant receptacles can be found at the National Electric Manufacturer’s Association Safety website: www.childoutletsafety.org, the Electrical Safety Foundation International website: www.esfi.org, and the Safe Kids Canada website: www.safekidscanada.ca.
Article (c) DBR Franchising, LLC.
Home security isn’t just for people who own houses. Just because you have a security guard at the entrance to your building, don’t assume your apartment or condominium is entirely secure. Your safety is up to you. It’s a good idea to make sure the apartment and surrounding grounds look secure before you sign a lease (since you’re limited to the kind of improvements you can make yourself).
Here are some home security tips for those who live in apartments or condos:
Have the apartment’s locks changed when you move in. (The maintenance crew can simply swap lock cylinders with a random vacant apartment, a project that is free and takes only a few minutes.)
Depending on the neighborhood, you may also feel more secure if you have a deadbolt lock. Apartment renters, make sure to get permission first.
Use your peephole, and don’t open the door for strangers. Demand identification from package delivery services, even if they’re in uniform (uniforms can be stolen).
Even if you’re home, don’t leave the door to your apartment unlocked.
Make sure the building’s public areas aren’t threatening, i.e. lights out in the parking lots, laundry room, or hallways.
Get to know your neighbors, and watch for suspicious people on the premises.
Home security alarms are available for apartment and condo dwellers as well; look into portable door/window alarms or a wireless home security system (things that can move with you when it’s time to find a new home).
Don’t leave your windows open, and make sure they all have secure locking mechanisms.
Likewise, don’t leave a sliding glass balcony door open, even on upper floors. (Balconies can make a handy ladder for burglars to climb to upper stories.) These kind of doors should have not only a lock but a Charley bar (or at least a wood board in the runners to keep the door from being forced).
Just use your last name, or if necessary last name and first initial, on your door or mailbox. This keeps strangers from knowing your gender or how many people live in your apartment.
Lastly, protect your assets by getting renter’s insurance to protect your belongings!© 2004 Home Security Information